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Deadline Sparks Surge in Covered California Applications

Apr 1, 2014

Uninsured Californians apply for health insurance through the state's federal health care exchange at a union-sponsored "enroll-a-thon" in Sacramento Monday.
Credit Ben Adler / Capital Public Radio

California’s health insurance exchange says it’s received a surge of last-minute enrollments ahead of Monday’s midnight application deadline.  Enrollment events popped up across the state as the Covered California call center reported waits of more than an hour in the final days.  Ben Adler reports from one such event in Sacramento.

A room full of people waited up to 45 minutes at a Sacramento union hall to sign up for the Covered California health care exchange on the final day of open enrollment.  Union organizers called it a 17-hour “enroll-a-thon.”

The dozens of people in the room just before lunchtime spread across all age groups and were nearly all minorities.  26-year-old Martyce Moore of Sacramento, who’s currently unemployed, says he’d rather not pay for health insurance.  But he figures it’s better than paying a fine for NOT having insurance.

Moore: “It’s something that I’ve been procrastinating to do, but it’s the last day, so I had to hurry up and get in here and sign up for this Obamacare.”

Not everyone at the “enroll-a-thon” was happy about being there.  45-year-old carpenter Anthony Gagliardo drove about 45 minutes from the Sierra foothill town of Auburn.

Gagliardo: “Generally, whoever I’m working with is who I have health care with. But right now I’m not working.  I had an eye injury, so right now I have no source of income, I’m waiting for my second surgery, so I have to get health care.  I have no choice.”

Crecencio Garcia of West Sacramento says he tried to enroll by phone, but couldn’t, so he came to apply in person.  At 51, the unemployed pastry chef says he likes the idea of having insurance, but isn’t sure how well the federal health care law will work – or if he can afford the monthly premiums.  And although he started his application process, he left without finding out how much his coverage will cost.

Garcia: “They say the system is too slow, and we got a lot of people, so I make room for another people.  He gonna call me in a couple days.”

Garcia and other Californians who started their insurance applications by the midnight deadline will have until April 15th to complete them.